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Tipperary sailor qualifies Ireland's first boat for 2020 Olympics

Aisling Keller and Aoife Hopkins were flying the flag at the world championships.

Aisling Keller on her way to qualifying the Irish Women's Laser Radials for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Aisling Keller on her way to qualifying the Irish Women's Laser Radials for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Image: Junichi Hirai

TIPPERARY SAILOR AISLING Keller has qualified Ireland for the 2020 Olympics in the laser radial.

Following the final two races at the Laser Radial World Championship today in Sakaiminato, Japan, Team Ireland has qualified for the Tokyo Olympic regatta in the women’s single-handed event; the class in which Annalise Murphy won silver at Rio 2016.

Lough Derg Yacht Club star Keller had her best day in the gold fleet final series to finish 46th overall this morning, and secure Ireland’s berth for next summer.

“This is a weight off my shoulders for sure. It’s probably the hardest regatta I’ve ever sailed,” the Nenagh native said afterwards.

“To come in off the water and know that it’s done and dusted is just amazing… so happy.”

It won’t definitely be Keller that goes to Tokyo, however, with Howth’s Aoife Hopkins finishing just two places behind her in 48th. A selection trial series will take place next year, with an internal Irish competition on the cards to see who’ll book their ticket.

Both Keller and Hopkins were inside the qualification criteria today with the former taking the seventh of 10 nation places up for grabs. Had Keller not qualified, Hopkins’ finish would have qualified Ireland as the ninth eligible nation.

“It’s been a really long road to this moment,” 21-year-old Hopkins said.

We’ve been working for a year towards this event particularly and even longer towards Olympic qualification. It’s really nice to come away with the outcome we wanted.

“Qualification was something that had to happen so that ended up being the focus here at the end of the regatta,” Irish Sailing’s head coach Rory Fitzpatrick added.

“Next we go to the Olympic venue (at) Enoshima… now that we know we’re going to be there (at the Games) we’ve got to make the most of it.” 

Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom, the Olympic bronze medallist in 2016, won the world championship outright.

See the results in full here.

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Emma Duffy

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